Published February 26, 2007
PARRISH, Fla. – Florida police think a man suspected of kidnapping a 13-year-old boy at gunpoint in an apparent ransom attempt may be trying to flee to Mexico.
Authorities on Sunday issued a warrant for Vicente Ignacio Beltran-Moreno, 22, who authorities say is Mexican. He is wanted in connection with the Friday morning kidnapping of Clay Moore from a school bus stop in Parrish, Fla. Moore was able to escape several hours later.
"We have reason to believe he has fled the area but we're not 100 percent sure," Manatee County sheriff's spokesman Dave Bristow told FOX News Monday morning, adding that authorities are searching both locally and out of state.
Asked whether Beltran-Moreno may be trying to flee to Mexico, Bristow said: "Certainly there's a chance of that and we're working with authorities there and hopefully we'll be able to catch up with him soon."
Bristow said police are not sure if Beltran-Moreno was in the United States legally or not, since there are several men who share the same name.
Manatee County Sheriff Charlie Wells said Sunday morning the abduction was "an absolute kidnapping for ransom."
"We have been able to positively conclude that this was an out-and-out kidnapping and that the person wanted money in exchange for Clay Moore," Wells added.
Authorities said Beltran-Moreno is a former migrant worker at the farm where Moore was ultimately found. Police believe Beltran-Moreno, most recently employed with an aluminum contractor, has fled Florida.
"I think we do have a sporting chance to bring him back to Manatee County and have him stand trial for this crime," Wells said.
A judge signed an arrest warrant Sunday for the man they believe kidnapped the teen, Bristow said. The sheriff did not release a photo of the suspect but said it was a good likeness to a police sketch released earlier.
Authorities executed a search warrant on one location early Sunday morning and recovered a rough draft of a ransom note, Wells said.
"The ransom note is at least a ransom note that was prepared to be given to someone or it was a practice ransom note, but we have fitted it to this case and it absolutely pertains to the motive for the abduction of Clay Moore," Wells said.
Early Friday morning, Clay was ordered to get into a red Ford Ranger, bound and taken to a wooded rural area about 20 miles away.
When he was left alone in the woods, tied to a tree and gagged with his own sock to silence his screams, the teen used a safety pin to cut through the tape. Authorities say he was gradually able to wriggle free and dislodge the sock from his mouth. Then, he began wandering through the woods in hopes of finding someone to help him.
He was 20 miles away from where a dozen children watched Friday as he was forced into a red pickup truck at his bus stop. The walk took hours. He found a farmer late in the day who lent him a cell phone and called his mother — and foiled his captor's kidnapping-for-ransom plan.
Authorities said Clay was chosen at random. They believe Beltran-Moreno planned to keep Clay tied up in the wooded area until the ransom was met.
"Obviously what threw everything into a spin was when the kid escaped," Wells said.
Wells credited the teen's keen eye for detail with breaking the case.
"He was extremely helpful and observant during that short time that he was with this suspect, and he gave us valuable information and he was right on the money with the information that he gave us," Wells said. "So for a 13-year-old kid, he was extremely courageous, and he provided us with valuable, valuable information as to how to solve this case."
"The bottom line: This man kidnapped the wrong kid."
Parrish is about 30 miles southeast of St. Petersburg. The bus stop where the abduction occurred was at the entrance to a subdivision off a rural road in eastern Manatee County.
FOXNews.com's Sara Bonisteel and The Associated Press contributed to this report.